I’ve been contrasting Jesus-shaped, cruciform leadership with worldly leadership. Key texts that shape my reflections are Phil. 2:5-11 and Mark 10:37-45.
Worldly leaders are captivated by a craving for more and more influence. Cruciform leaders, on the other hand, are content with current responsibilities given by God and seek to grow in faithfulness.
I had defined cruciform, Jesus-shaped leadership as an unrelenting commitment to the delivery of the love and grace of God into the lives of others (or, the life of another), and taking the initiative to see to it that this happens.
Cruciform leaders sense a compelling call to the delivery of God’s transforming grace and redeeming love to others. The scope of ministry may involve one’s own family. It may extend beyond that to a one-to-one discipleship relationship. Or, it may involve leadership in larger groups. Size doesn’t matter.
In any and every case, cruciform leaders are focused on faithfulness to the task. This involves self-sacrificially serving others, getting to know those to whom we minister. Cruciform leaders take the initiative to cultivate relationships of mutuality and authenticity shaped and oriented by the love and grace of God.
I described worldly leadership as a desire to increase in prestige, status, and influence and a willingness to do whatever it takes to achieve personal advancement.
Worldly leadership manifests itself in the church by a lack of contentment with current ministry circumstances. Worldly leaders desire more and more influence. They are always looking beyond their current scope of ministry to bigger and better and more. Such pursuits are incompatible with faithfulness in ministry.
This form of leadership has a corrosive effect on one’s soul, one’s ministry partnerships, and one’s family.
Worldly leaders are captive to destructively competitive impulses. They envision the ministry “successes” of others as losses for themselves. They cannot delight in the giftedness of others because they are threatened by them. Good things happening in other churches or ministries are provocations to anger and resentment.
Worldly leaders grow anxious when they are not recognized and praised. They are jealous when the gifts of others are noted or praised.
A worldly leadership orientation also has a destructive effect on one’s family. Ministers who seek greater influence cannot afford to spend time cultivating rich and joyful relationships at home. Those take time and effort. They are messy, complicated. Our families see our faults and failures. Fruitful family life demands relationships of mutuality in order to flourish. That means we must give ourselves fully to our families, blessing them and being blessed by them. That means we work hard to cultivate the skills of forgiving and asking for forgiveness.
Worldly leadership draws us away from our families, seducing us to see it as far easier to be out there “ministering” where people don’t see our faults and failures. We can get by on charm and surface encounters. Such behaviors are exposed as obviously hypocritical at home. Families can’t run on such relational shallowness. They demand serious love and regular reconciliation.
Worldly leaders see their families, therefore, as obstacles to greater influence. Spouses and children who demand my time are taking away from my efforts to grow the reach of my ministry! They’re in the way!
Too many pastors have given in to such worldly and destructive temptations and have sacrificed their spouses and children on the altar of growing a ministry or extending the reach of their influence.
Whatever influence they might have may prove either ephemeral or destructive. In speaking about leaders among God’s people, Paul asks, “if they don’t know how to manage their own household, how can they take care of God’s church?”
Cruciform leaders discern the worldly lures of bigger and better and more as the destructive and soul-destroying corruptive ideologies that they are. They resist such temptations and their associated practices. They take joy in their relationships, serving faithfully, loving others and receiving their love in the name of the One who gave his life for the church.